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Choosing a topic

Coming up with a good topic idea often requires some effort. 

You can’t expect ideas to just fall from the sky and materialise in your head. You will often have to make an active effort to generate creative processes and encourage ideas. When you try to develop ideas, it’s essential not to restrict yourself and your thoughts. Be open to any idea or thought that comes to mind – even if it may seem crazy and useless. You can then decide later on whether the ideas have any value. 

How much time do you have available? 

Always consider the timeframe available for your work, and find a focus that matches this timeframe. Also, try to find a problem that matches the scope of your assignment and the time available to write it. Students are often tempted to select a topic that is too broad for the scope of the assignment because they are afraid that they will not have enough material.  

Your supervisor can help you assess whether the planning of your assignment process seems realistic. You can also arrange regular meetings with your supervisor, so you always have a new deadline for your work. This can be a good way to force yourself to meet your deadlines. Click here to read more about supervision.  

When you have selected and narrowed down your topic, turn it into a problem statement. 

Kick-start new ideas

Sometimes the ideas come by themselves and sometimes you have to help them coming. 

Below you will find examples of six different methods that can help you to get ideas to a topic.



A mind map can be a useful tool to organise your thoughts and ideas. 

Start by defining the point of origin of your mind map. 

Write the word or sentence in the middle of a large piece of paper. 

Then write down all your thoughts, theories and ideas around the word or sentence. 

Each time you add something, draw a line to the point of origin or to one or more of the other things on the paper. 

This will help you spot new angles and links that can be difficult to manage and keep track of in your head. 

Free writing

Free writing can help you develop a thought or an idea and get it down on paper. 

  • Select an overall topic. 

  • Write about this topic for 5 minutes straight. Do not stop at any time, even if you run out of ideas. Instead, write filler words until new thoughts and ideas come to mind. 

  • After 5 minutes, read your text and select interesting angles that you can then brainstorm afterwards. 

Click here to read about the free writing exercise and how to perform it. 

Ideas bank

Ideas often come tumbling all at once, or out of the blue while you’re doing something else. Writing them down the minute they come to mind can be a great help. 

  • Always keep a notepad to hand. Ideas can emerge when you least expect it. So keep a pad of paper on your bedside table, in your bag, by the couch, etc. 

  • Elaborate further on your ideas as soon as you have more time. Then you can quickly confirm that the topic or idea is worth looking into, and if not, reject it. 

  • Collect all your ideas in one document that you can use again in your next assignment. 

Group exercise: Circle technique 

The circle technique is a method of collaborating with other students, for example your study group, on developing ideas. 

  • Form a group of approx. four people. 

  • Give each member of the group a piece of A3 paper. 

  • Write down one vague idea each. There are no requirements for the merits of the ideas. 

  • Then each member of the group circles their idea and sends the paper on to their neighbour. 

  • When you receive a piece of paper with an idea, write down all the things you can think of in connection with the idea. This could be a piece of advice, similar ideas, suggestions for literature, questions, etc. 

This will help you build on your ideas and explore them further. Working with other students on your ideas can be inspiring. 

Criteria for your choice of topic 

Establishing criteria for your choice of topic can be helpful when selecting a topic for a free-choice assignment. Download the criteria exercise (pdf). 

  • Start by identifying three elements that you know your assignment should not include or address. These elements can be academic material, methods, approaches, etc. 

  • Then decide on three elements that you would like to include in your assignment. 

  • Finally, find examples of assignment topics that meet as many of your criteria as possible.  

Following this procedure will enable you to narrow down what you would find interesting to work on. At the same time, your preliminary ideas about your assignment will be translated into specific topics you can explore further. 

Sources for inspiration

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Go over the points on the mind map above  (pdf) and follow each arrow. Take notes for each point to identify a topic that you would like to work on. 

Use your knowledge and academic competences

During your studies, you have amassed experience within a variety of academic topics and areas – use it! 

When deciding on a topic for an assignment, you can draw inspiration from the knowledge you have already acquired. 


Use your existing knowledge 

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you write an assignment. Sometimes it makes sense to reuse empirical data from a previous assignment, course or project and place it in a new context, and sometimes you can further explore a theory you have used before. You might want to ask yourself the following questions to get started: 

  • What topics and what kind of empirical data have you previously dealt with?  

  • What elective courses have you taken? Why did you choose these courses over others? 

  • What tools, theories and areas of knowledge have you acquired on the various subjects and courses? 

  • Which assignment topics have you been genuinely interested in while writing about them? Can you develop this topic further, or approach it from a different angle? 

  • Is there an aspect or a subject area that you were not able to look into before, but that you would like to explore further now? 

  • Are the topics you have worked on previously somehow related? There doesn’t have to be a clear common thread, but perhaps you can identify some kind of link or overall area of interest. 

What do you want to do afterwards? 

If you have an idea of what you want to do after you graduate, it makes good sense to consider this when deciding on a topic – especially if you’re about to begin your Master's thesis. Think about the kind of industry you could imagine working in after you graduate, or what kind of job you would find interesting. 

You might write your assignment or thesis in collaboration with a company or an organisation that fits into your future career plans. Or you can choose to work alone on a topic related to your future career interests. In this way, you can use your thesis to prepare yourself for the labour market. 

Use your assignment as a springboard to the labour market: 
  • Focus on the tasks you would like to work on in your future career, and find an angle on these tasks that you can use in your Bachelor's project or Master's thesis. 

  • Find an under-researched area within a field that you would like to work in after you graduate. 

  • Which function would you like to fulfil? Would you like to teach, do research, write, co-ordinate, analyse or something else entirely? Perhaps you can use your assignment to explore aspects of your preferred work function and thereby acquire specialised knowledge about this particular area. 


  • Do you have experience from your present or previous jobs that you can use in your assignment? 

  • Are there any areas that you have considerable knowledge in and which you can use as a basis for your study? 

  • Perhaps you had an internship during your studies where you gained insight into some interesting issues. 

  • Do you have unique knowledge about a certain issue because you have been in close contact with a company/organisation/other. 

Contact to companies

If you would like to work with a company, but have no prior affiliation with one, a good place to start is on jobbank.au.dk, which is a site where: 

  • companies and students can create project proposals. 

  • you can click on different project descriptions to see how the projects are designed. 

  • you can learn about a wide range of companies that you didn’t know about before. 

  • you can learn about matters that companies want to have investigated. 

In any case, make sure you are well-prepared before you contact a company, so that you act professionally when proposing a collaboration. It’s important that you have a clearly defined purpose and that you align your expectations for the collaboration. Read a step-by-step guide on business collaboration, and learn about research, contracts and possible challenges. 

Use your network

Inspiration for assignments can come from many places. Use your interests or relationships to find an exciting and relevant topic.


Use your fellow students

Talking to your fellow students about their topics can be an inspiration for choosing your own topic. 

This will give you insight into areas that seem to be under-researched or highly relevant, or it may confirm that others find a particular topic interesting as well. Knowing what others are writing about or have previously written about will also give you a better idea of what a Master's thesis entails. 

Find inspiration in current debates

When choosing a topic, you can find inspiration in current news or debates in the media or within your field of study. This can give your assignment more relevance and place it in the context of issues that are high on the public agenda. 

Are there any current events or debates that interest you? 

  • If you are particularly interested in a topic that is currently part of public debate, this could be a relevant assignment topic for you. 

  • Or perhaps the issue could be part of your discussion or the perspectives section of your assignment. 

Is there anything exciting going on at your faculty right now? 

  • Have any recent seminars or guest lectures triggered an idea for an interesting topic? 

  • Has anyone brought up a topic that you would like to know more about and which you could perhaps add a new perspective on? 

Thesis seminars

Many departments organise thesis seminars or discussion groups for Master's thesis students where they can find help and inspiration from other Master's thesis students, teachers and lecturers, for example with regard to: 

  • what characterises a Master's thesis. 

  • searching for literature. 

  • the writing process. 

  • planning your work so you hand in on time. 

The thesis seminar is a forum where students can share their experience and exchange ideas. It’s an ideal place to learn about being a Master's thesis student. 

Get inspiration from your leisure activities

Do you have any interests outside your studies? Perhaps you can use specialist knowledge you have acquired in your leisure time. Or maybe you can do a scientific study of something you have practical knowledge about. 

What you are passionate about? 

  • Is there something that you find really interesting, but which is not necessarily related to your field of study? 

  • Could this be incorporated into your assignment? 

If you are a sports coach in your spare time, you may have a special interest in communicating to the particular age group that you’re coaching. If you are a scout leader, maybe you have special knowledge about organisational culture and forms of collaboration. Or if you spend a lot of time on social media, perhaps you would be interested in doing a study on perceptions of identity and communication forums. 


  • Interest: Film. Topic: Developments in Danish film history 1950-1980 with focus on gender roles. 

  • Interest: Politically active. Topic: Political rhetoric in a conflict situation. 

  • Interest: Sustainability. Topic: Legumes as a source of protein. 

  • Interest: Virtual reality. Topic: The impact of virtual reality on children’s physical development. 

How do you want to work?

Think about how you work best and which method of investigation you want to use. 

Most major assignments, especially Master's theses, combine different methods of investigation. Consider which methods you primarily want to work with. For example, consider the following: 

  • What do I have positive/negative experience with? 

  • Are there any methods I would like to become more familiar with before I graduate? 

  • Are there any methods that are commonly used to address the topic/problem statement I am working on? Do I want to use any of these methods, or do I want to take a different approach? 

  • Are there any methods that my supervisor has special knowledge of? 

  • What is my supervisor’s response to my ideas with regard to methods of investigation? 

Click here to read more about methods of investigation. 

See also

Inspiration from assignments by other students

Get a list of thesis titles (in Danish) from your field of study, and draw inspiration from other students’ choice of topics. 

Thesis and project collaboration

Find a relevant topic or problem by collaborating with a company/organisation on your project, exam paper or Master's thesis. Explore the options on your study portal (in Danish).